Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Hey everyone! It was so good to talk you on Christmas! I'm so sorry it was so short. It always goes by so fast. But it was so good to talk you all I wish I could have had time to talk with you all more, especially with the girls. But that's the mission right? Well we had a pretty good christmas. We basically worked the whole day. We went to old people's homes and hospitals to sing to people and we visited some investigators and recent converts.

The sisters in Arecibo came to spend Christmas with us and that was fun. It's been a pretty slow week, as you can imagine everyone has been celebrating so the work has been a little slow but that's alright. We are finding families! We are working a family that is pretty big, they are grandparents and grandchildren and they are really amazing. I know that things will start picking up soon. I feel like I don't really have any super fun stories becuase I just talked to you the other day. But I'm trying to think... Last night we had an activity with all of Ponce zone. All of the missionaries in our stake went to President Alvarado's parents' house because they are from Ponce. President and his entire family was there. They fed us dinner and we had a testimony meeting. It was really fun. The plan was to afterwards go caroling to some people in their neighborhood but the Ponce sisters had an appointment and President said that they should go because the appointment was more important but they didn't bring their bikes and it was far away so he told us to take them in our car that to divide up so I went with one of the sisters to the appointment and my companion went with the other sister to do contacts in Walmart. Wow, what an amazing experience we had. It was a family that has been recently reactivated. The sisters have been working with them for about 4 months now and they have about 1 month to be active in the church. They were doing a family home evening and the mom gave the lesson. The spirit was so strong as the mom taught the lesson, everything perfectly prepared, she was super nervous but taught the most amazing lesson. I really would not have believed that a month ago this family was completely inactive. She told us how they are preparing to go to the temple and be sealed as a family next year. The sister from Ponce who I know really well because we have about the same time in the mission, expressed to me a little bit of frustration because they haven't had a baptism in a very long time. She felt frustrated because they weren't seeing a lot of success. As we left, we were both so excited, I told her Hermana, being there tonight with that family was better than a baptism. Thats a complete family that is preparing to go to the temple and their oldest son wants to serve a mission. It was a really cool experience. That's what Puerto Rico needs, families like that.

Well I am sending a few pictures of us from the Christmas conference, us in the Yunque national forest, and more.  They probably won't all fit so I'll explain more in each email.

First we hiked about a kilometer and a half to this lake and had a spiritual thought. This is me and my companion Hermana Angel.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I know that I said I wouldn't be writing any emails this week but we are at the office right now and they allowed us a few minutes to write emails. We are having a two day christmas conference and it has been really great so far. This morning we started early and we went to the Yunque National Rain Forest. We went hiking there and then we to eat lunch at the outlet malls. I don't know if you have ever seen those movies on YouTube that they call flash mob. Where people go into the food court at the mall or in the subway in New York and start little by little singing and people join in until a whole bunch of people are singing. We did that. We were all sitting there eating and one of the sisters started to sing and then little by little we all stood up and joined in and went to the center of the food court and sang a few songs it was pretty cool. Tonight we are going to have a talent show and eat dinner then tommorrow we are going to have a more formal conference with leaders here in Puerto Rico and we are going to have a testimony meeting. I will talk to you Christmas night! I can't wait. I am so excited.

Things are going good here. It is a little different working in Adjuntas and many of our investigators aren't progressing. It's been hard for my companion because she has been working with these people for so long but we are trying find families. I know that things will start looking up. Anyway I can't write much there are so many missionaries that are going to try and use the computers. I just wanted to say hi really quickly. We'll talk on christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Freezing in Adjuntas

Yes, that's right. I am freezing. I got transferred to Adjuntas which is in the middle of the island in the mountains and it is the coldest place in all of Puerto Rico. During the day it is in the 70s but at night it gets down to the fifties. Luckily I have a few sweaters and I am pulling out the jacket I brought from home and haven't since the MTC. But really? Who thought that I would be freezing cold on a tropical island. haha. I actually resorted to warming my socks in the microwave the other night before going to bed. You know how I've always had problems with my feet being a little cold. haha. Adjuntas is in the mountains. That's right. Puerto Rico has mountains believe it or not. Some places are a little hard to get to and park the car where we can and start walking. I am in shock that there are so many little houses back in there. We live in town close to the church. The town has a really nice plaza that is all lit up at night and has very little here, one super market a few small pharmacies and a Burger King. But Ponce is a very large city about 1/2 hour away that's where we meet for our district meetings.

Still can't send pictures I don't know why my camera won't send them but I am going to start taking pics on my other memory card and I'll send a bunch next week. our area covers Adjuntas and Jayuya which is a small branch. One day a week we go to work in Utuado which is another branch but president wants us to work there one day a week becuase there are no missionaries there right now. We visit that branch one sunday a month. The people here are actually quite different from the other areas I have been . Until now I have never really served in country. The branches are small and everyone is very humble. Some of our investigators have little education and some don't know how to read which makes teaching a little different. Whereas in the other areas I have been almost everyone is evangical, pentacostal or many different types of christian churches most people here are catholic. That makes things different too. But the people are really great and I am excited to work here.

We have two baptisms schedule for the 1st of January. It is a couple that lives in Utuado. They are really great. They are so humble. He doesn't know how to read and he is quite a bit older than she is. She reads to him and they are so excited about the gospel. They are going to be married on Christmas and then baptized on the first so that will be great.

My new companion is Hermana Angel. She is also from El Salvador. My third companion from there. I'm here second companion. She's been out 4 1/2 months and spent her whole time here in Adjuntas. She is super cute, is about 4 feet tall, speaks pretty good english actually and I am helping her learn more. We have a lot in common. She was studying accounting before the mission, she's genuinely sweet and just happy all the time. Sometimes a little unsure of herself. It's been sort of a hard week for her not being with her trainer and having to show me around the area. I'm not much help because I don't know the members or the investigators. But we've had a pretty good week.

I'm so excited to talk to all of you on Christmas. I will be probably calling at 7:00 our time here. I can't wait to talk to all of you. I hope that finals go well. Good luck Ab on finishing your finals, and Rach too. I know that it will all turn out just fine. I hope you enjoy this week leading up to christmas. Tell everyone hi for me. Love you all a ton.

Hermana Barker

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Leaving Arecibo

Thanks for the emails. I'm sorry to hear that you are still not feeling well, Erin. That's no fun at all. Good luck with finals coming up. I'm sure you will all do great. Thanks for sending the package Mom. I haven't seen it yet but I will be going to the office tonight I'm sure it is on the way. I never did get the Zyrtec but don't worry about albuterol inhaler I'm fine with those I haven't used them at all on the mission. Christmas time is near again in Puerto Rico. It's getting a little bit colder, I actually sleep with a blanket at night, imagine that. Everyone decorates their houses a ton here. Like the states but with more inflatable santas and cartoon caracters.

So it's official I am leaving Arecibo. New area, new companion but I don't know any details yet. We have a training for all the sisters in the mission tonight and they will tell us there. It's always really hard to say goodbye to people each time there is a transfer. It will be weird to be with a different companion, it's been so long that I've been with Hermana Rodriguez. But I'm excited to see what will happen. I have been meaning to send photos these last few weeks but I kept forgeting to bring the cord. Well this last week we went to print off photos at the machine at Walmart and now my card and Hermana Rodriguez' can't be recognize in the computer. It won't let me send. I don't know why. I'll try next week if not I'll send some prints that I printed off by mail. Sorry.

So anyway it's been a pretty good week. We've been trying to find families. To be honest we really haven't had a ton of investigators but we found quite a few families that we are pretty excited about. This last week we decided to fast so that we would be able to find families to teach. Hermana Rodriguez had to make change so that she could pay her fast offering so saturday night just before heading home we went to a grocery store to contact people and so she could buy something small to make change. As we were standing in line we started talking a man and his little girl. Hermana Rodriquez asked him where he was from becuase she could tell that he didn't have a Puerto Rican accent. He said that he was from Mexico and his family had just moved here three weeks ago from New York. As he left I quickly gave him a card and stood by the door of the store talking to him. We talked with him as we left the store and we left him a card. He said he would call us. Well we were a little dissapointed because they were a really great family and usually when they say we'll call you it means no. Well half an hour later we received a phone call from a new york cell phone. We picked it up but couldn't hear anything and tried to call back but the call wouldn't go through. We thought could it be the man we just met in the store? Well yesterday I received a phone call. He said that he had been trying to call for several days but we never picked up (we are waiting on a new phone from the office because ours has some problems). Anyway he wanted to hear more. I am super excited about this family. It just goes to show that Heavenly Father will put people in our path we should never lose the opportunity to talk with someone.

Leaving Arecibo was hard. It's hard to say goodbye to everyone. One of the hardest was Nicole. Wow, she's amazing. She has decided to go on a mission! She still has a few years but she decided that she is going and is starting a mission fund. She prayed for the longest time to know how to tell her parents that she was going to be putting money aside for a mission. To her surprise they were somewhat okay with it as long as she paid and as long as she promises to finish her Bachelor's degree and do her master's when she gets back. She was so excited to tell us. She is studying Preach My Gospel and came to teach with us again this week. She has started to have Family Home Evenings at her house. This is a huge deal because her parents were seperated for awhile and are back together but she told us that she has seen a big change in her home and in the attitude of her parents. Right now her parents don't want the missionaries to come by, they say their not ready for that but said yes to family night. Well, Nicole decided that the lessons each week will be from Preach My Gospel! Haha she's going to teach the doctrine from the mission lessons to them. We'll see how that goes but it's so great to see how excited she is to share the gospel with her family. She's so great. And to hear her talk about how much she wants to serve a mission put almost to the point of tears.

Well sorry I can't send pictures. I'll try next week and I'll send some printed out ones in the mail.

Love you all a ton!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Transfer next week.

Hey thanks for the emails! And thanks for the picture from Thanksgiving. Tell everyone hi for me. Sounds like the weather is crazy! I'm going to freeze when I get home, whenever that is. Haha, i'll let you know when I find out. President still doesn't know I think. Good luck with school everyone, especially on your packet Erin and all those cover letters, Rach. Why do you have to write so many? I'm a little confused about that. Well we had a pretty good thanksgiving here. We worked as normal but we ate as well. We went to a members house at night for dinner and our duenos brought us up some food. It was nice because we really just a had good sized plate so we weren't too full. Lets just said that the thanksgiving here is a little better. I missed your pie mom. But that's okay.

Well anyway, it's sort of been a rough week for us. Ana and the member that invited her both got offended because the member wasn't worthy to baptize her. They both got offended and we haven't been able to get ahold of her since a week ago sunday. Neither of them will answer phone calls from us or members and aren't ever home either. So that was pretty hard for us. We've had a hard week trying to find people. Since it was a holiday most of lessons cancelled and we had a pretty hard week. But that happens right? We just keep moving forward. It's crazy to think that it's already December. The holidays here are already in full swing. Puerto Rican christmas music in the streets and Puerto Ricans love to decorate with christmas lights and inflatable things in front of their houses. Hermana Rodriguez is always so surprised because no one does that in her country. PS if you are going to send her Mail address it to Iris Rodriguez Vazguez. There are more than one Hermana Rodriguez in our mission.

Well anyway wish I had some more cool stories to tell you. I'll try and send you some photos next week when I have more time to upload them. Sorry we are short on time and I spent a lot of time reading all the letters that I got from you all last week and this week.

 Love you all a ton.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today is my one year anniversary in Puerto Rico

Hey Everyone, hope you are having a great week.

I'm sure you are you are all finishing up with school and about to enjoy a long weekend. We still don't know what our plans are for Thanksgiving; we've had several people invite us but we have some appointments too so we don't know where we will end up eating some turkey and pasteles for a little while. I'll be missing Thanksgiving at home, especially Mom's pies and yams with marshmallows and rolls. So enjoy for me! Happy Birthday Abby! Wow, tomorrow you are turning 19! I can't believe it. I hope you do something extremely fun. You'll have to tell me all about it. Tell everyone hi for me.

It's been a pretty good week. President has assigned a sister to be a lead trainer and she is visiting all the sisters in the mission and working with us. This last weekend she was here and we learned a ton. We found a few new families to teach. We are a little sad becuase Ana isn't going to be able to be baptized Saturday. We waited for her for over an hour last night to teach her the final lesson and go over the baptismal interview questions. She hasn't been answering her phone. She's been a little different lately and we can't figure out why. But we are praying hard that we are going to be able to get a hold of her. So we are praying hard that we can get a hold of her but even then we'll have to move her baptism date to another week because we feel like she's just not ready. But this sunday was really great. Jennifer our investigator that has been coming to church and had a baptism date has not been progressing much lately. Jennifer suffers from depression and with some situations that have been going on lately she has been so down she hasn't really been progressing. Well we offered a priesthood blessing and sunday after church the elder's quorum president and another member gave her a blessing. It was an amazing blessing. We went to her house the next day and she was so happy. I've never seen her so happy since we've been teaching her in the last month or so. She just couldn't stop smiling. Her whole countenance was different. She told us that she knows everything will be okay and it really helped her testimony. It was so great too to see her 11 year old daughter participate in the primary program. Even though she barely knew the songs she was up there. So we are really excited for them.

Other than that things here are pretty much the same. We are working hard finding people.

I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. I arrived in Puerto Rico, one year ago today, nervous about what it was going to be like. Even though I am far away and I miss you all a ton I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve here in Puerto Rico. I learn things everyday and even though it is extremely hard and there are good days and rough days I know this is where I am supposed to be. Seeing as tomorrow is Thanksgiving here are a few things I am grateful for:

The restored gospel. My entire life I have taken for granted the amazing blessing it is to be a member of this church. Even though I have always been grateful until my mission I never really came to appreciate it is as much as I do now. I can't imagine what my life would be without it. I know who I am. I know that my Heavenly Father has prepared a plan for me and for my family so that we can be together forever.

My family. Mom, Dad, Erin, Rachel and Abby. Thank you so much for everything. I won't ever be able to express how much I love you all. I have been so blessed to have grown up in a home with two amazing parents that love us and would do anything (and really DO anything) for us. I'm grateful for my three sisters that are such a great example to me. I look up to all of you, whether you are older or younger. You truly are my best friends.

I see all around me every day so many families that are so unhappy that don't have love in their homes, with so many problems. I am so grateful to have a loving family. We have our trials and our difficulties but I will never be able to express how grateful I am that Heavenly Father allowed me to have the great family that I have and that we have been blessed to grow up with the gospel in our home. Thanks to grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins. I truly have been blessed to have a great family.

I'm grateful for my companion, Hermana Rodriguez. I learn from her every single day. She is such an example to me. She is the most humble person I know. I know that the reason we have been together for almost 6 months is because I have a lot of things to learn from her. She loves the people so much and has such a strong testimony of the gospel.

I'm grateful for the people here in Puerto Rico. Sure, you always run into people that just don't like you because you are a missionary and they want nothing to do with us. But for the most part the people here are so great. They'll do anything for you. I have met so many amazing people here that are such great examples to me. If I started to write about them I would never finish.

I am grateful for my health. Sure, I've had a few small problems here on the mission but I'm still able to get up in the morning and I'm grateful that I'm healthy and able to enjoy life.

I am extremely grateful that I have never really had to worry about temporal things such as food on the table or things to wear. I've been truly humbled to have several companions that have taught me to be grateful for that. I have had companions that live in one room homes with no running water and that have never even had a christmas present to open. They work hard in factories trying to make ends meet and are afraid to walk through the streets in their own neighborhood because of the violence. I am constantly amazed at how sheltered and blessed I have been to grow up where I have.

I am thankful for the priesthood. That through the priesthood we can receive the saving ordinances like baptism and temple ordinances to return and live with our families one day. Through the priesthood we can receive blessings of comfort and health. Through the priesthood our homes can be blessed immensely. I'm so grateful that I've grown up in a home with a father who is a worthy priesthood holder.

I could go on and on. I love you all a ton. I hope you all have a great week and a happy thanksgiving and a great birthday, Ab.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Hard Week

Thanks for the emails. I'm sure everyone is super tired between midnight harry potter showings, busy school schedules and all the work mom and dad have been doing around the house and in spring city. Wow, I really can't believe that this next week is Thanksgiving. It's weird to think that Abby will be turning 19! Babs, stop getting older you're making me feel old. I'm excited to read all of your stories that you are writing Erin, that's really cool that you got into the workshop I'm sure it will be a great experience.

So things here are good. Ana is progressing, she has stopped drinking coffee and we are preparing for her baptism on the 27th. As for the rest of our investigators it has been a little hard this week. We have found a lot of families but one of the downsides of teaching families is that sometimes one person is present the next time other people are present and its hard to help them progress at the same time. We have two families where we are actually just teaching their teenage kids because the parents are always busy. They think that it's good for their kids to listen to us but don't think they need it themselves. We are trying to find ways to get the whole family together so they can progress together. Nicole, who got baptized last month, is so amazing. She came out with us to visit some investigators last week and it was so great. She has a copy of Preach My Gospel and she studied up on the lesson before hand. It was really special to see that she is so excited about the gospel. A member told us she's always writing comments on facebook about the church and she's a member of groups like I'm a Mormon. She's was super excited about a video she found online about the new temple being built in Rome. It's great to see her so excited.

We had a really great zone conference this last week. It was completely focused on the Restoration. We watched the movie, Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration. The spirit was really strong and even though I've seen it quite a few times I'm always really touched by that movie. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for all the sacrifices that Joseph Smith, his family and other early church members made. The trials that they had to go through, getting thrown from their homes, being tarred and feathered, imprisoned and much more. I couldn't help but thing of my own ancestors that were part of that group. So many people made so many sacrifices for the gospel. I'm been truly blessed to have grown up in a home with the gospel. I'm so grateful for the people that have sacrificed so much for me. I couldn't help but ask myself what am I willing to sacrifice so that other people can have the same blessings? Thanks so much Mom and Dad for allowing me to grow up in a home with the gospel and for always being such great examples to me.

So I still don't know about extending. The mission department apparently doesn't want to do extensions anymore. They are thinking about sending us home the transfer before our 18 month mark. President is trying to get us permission to extend. I really want to extend but I guess we'll see what happens. It's all really up in the air right now but I'll let you know.

Well have to go. Love you all a ton.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Year!

Thanks for your emails. So I guess Rach went be home when I get back from the mission. That is so weird. But that is really cool that you are going to do an internship. What type of internship is it? Where are you going to live? Maybe I'll have to go out to DC and visit you and while I'm at it try and visit some Big 4 offices while I'm there. I'm sorry you are still not feeling well, Er. Congrats once again on getting your article published. I can't even imagine being in the snow right now. Ít's so weird to think that at home there is snow on the ground. I can't believe thanksgiving is coming up soon. It's on your birthday Ab! It's just too weird to think how fast time is going by. I'm glad that you got the fence done in Spring City, I'm sure it looks great down there.

Well things here are good. Jennifer and Yillianette won't be baptized this month. Jennifer just isn't ready she has a lot of doubts and we really want her to have a testimony. But little by little they are progressing. Ana, is still preparing for baptism. We taught the Word of Wisdom last night and she has to stop drinking Coffee. She says she's been working on it for the last few weeks becuase she already knew that we don't drink coffee but she's just kept saying little by little. Things here are good nothing too huge has happened. We've found quite a few families this last week that we are really excited about. One family is really amazing. Juan, the Dad is reading the Book of Mormon like crazy. We went back for the first lesson and he had read the chapter we marked plus everything from the beginning until almost the end of first Nephi. He had a lot of doubts but he was also really excited about the book. At one point in the lesson he said if this book is really true why doesn't everyone know about it? Imagine, an ancient record that was found and published that sort of thing would be on the news and everyone would be so excited about it. Why haven't I ever heard about this book before? he asked. If only everyone was that excited about it. So we'll see what happens when we visit them tonight.

So yeah, things are going well. As I said we both passed our year mark this last week. Sadly we weren't really able to celebrate it. Our plan was to go buy a cake and candle and take a picture or something. Cakes here are so expensive! A little tiny cake that was probably 6" was $15. We were going to get an oven becuase we currently just have a stove top. The office was going to bring us one but we haven't got it yet so we'll see what we can do for when we hit our one year mark here in Puerto Rico. So here's a little lesson in Puerto Rican vocabulary. Cake here is not pastel, it is bizcocho. Pastel for Puerto Ricans are what we know as tamales. If you come here and ask for a pastel don't be surprised when instead of a cake you get a greyish brown mush filled with meat. Many missionaries become quiet dissapointed when they see it. It's made from what we call bananas and they call guineo. haha I'm going to speaking weird spanish when I get home.

Well anyway. Hope things are going well. Love you all a ton!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great Week!

Hey everyone,

So things are going well here I feel like the time is going by so fast I feel like I just wrote yesterday. I'm excited to read Erin's article that was published. I laughed really hard when I pictured Mom and Dad in the Grand Canyon sliding of the end of the bed because the historic hotel's floors were so uneven. Thanks for the pictures! I'm glad that everything worked out with the tree falling on the cars. I'm sorry that was such a hassle for you.
 It's so crazy to think that it's already November. Hope everyone had fun on Halloween! Halloween was a regular work day for us there were a few kids trick or treating but not very many because it was rainy. Here they give money to little kids here. The kids go up to the door and yell, "Halloween! Trick or Treat! Dame chavos y no mani" Mani means peanuts but they say like money so its like a play on words. Chavos is the slang word for money like the word cash. Anyway poor things got wet because it was pouring rain. We had to be home at 7:00 because I guess people sort of go crazy at night. They egg cars and people and do other things so we were home early that day.

Saturday Denis got baptized. It was really special his family was really emotional. Jennifer and Yillianette accepted baptismal dates for the 20th and Jennifer came to the baptism and she really loved it. Ana Rodriguez also accepted a baptismal date for the 20th so we are really excited we had a really good week. She told us that she has been asking and asking to get an answer to know if its true we talked about recognizing answers to prayers that an answer isn't like a giant lightening bolt but that it comes through feelings. I think she realized that she has received her answer already and she knows that it's true. She accepted a baptism date as well. So we are really excited for her.

This is a shout out to everyone, we need unique and creative ideas to teach the basic gospel principles to children. For example games, or object lessons that you have used in family home evening or on the mission to teach the restoration, plan of salvation etc. So if you have any good ideas I would love to here we are trying to focus more on teaching so that the whole family can understand and be interested.

Wow, tomorrow will mark one year since I entered into the MTC in Provo. It's so crazy to think about that. Since Hermana Rodriguez's one year mark is friday we are planning on doing something fun to celebrate. It's so weird to think about that. Anyway have a great week all of you!

 Love you all a ton!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Still in Aricebo with Hermana Rodriquez

Well, today are transfers but we aren't going anywhere; which is great. I don't want to change areas because Arecibo is great and we are seeing a ton of success. I would cry if President had moved me. We'll see what will happen next transfer but for 6 more weeks I'll be here and I'm excited. Still with Hermana Rodgriguez; so we'll be together for at least 6 months. So crazy to think that it's been that long. We'll hit our year mark next week. So crazy, I can't believe it is going by so fast. So...sounds like things have been pretty crazy this week with school for everyone. Congrats Erin on getting your article published. I wish I could see.When you get the magazine save me a copy will you? So what's this about a tree falling on my car? haha hope everything is okay. No details were provided with the story. Hope that means that it will still be there when I get back. If not guess I'll be walking a lot haha.

Mom, thanks so much for the package, the red wide band is exactly what I needed. I'll send the rest back. Thanks so much for everything else too. Hermana Rodriguez was especially grateful and in complete shock. So thank you, We are going to go clothes shopping this next week.

So this week has been pretty good. As I said we are still here and I'm really glad because as I said we have some amazing investigators. The baptism of Denis is this Saturday and we're excited. We had four investigators at church on Sunday that is the most I've ever had at church in my mission; usually one or two. Jennifer and Yillianette were super excited to come. They liked it a lot but it was a little hard because the baby started crying during sacrament meeting and they spent most of it outside in the hall and the lesson on eternal marriage was a little hard seeing as she is recently divorced. But she is planning on coming back next week. They are progressing a lot. Members continue to be amazing. A member named Ramon is sharing the gospel like crazy. He introduced us to his friend Ana and she is so amazing and is coming to church this Sunday as well. We had an amazing lesson with her last night where we watched The Restoration and she just couldn't stop crying. Ramon asked for two more copies of the Book of Mormon to give away to other friends that want to listen to the gospel. So we'll see how it goes. Other thanthat, we are just continuing to work hard trying to make the goals that the area leaders have for us. The way mission work is being done here in Puerto Rico is really changing.  They expect us to work harder and more focused than ever before. We are working harder than ever before in conversions and reactivation and I know that we are going to start seeing a lot of great things.

Anyway love you all a ton. Goodluck with work, school and everything else.

Wow! so as I was finishing typing, I just got the pictures Erin sent of the tree on the car! I can't believe it. Thank goodness it wasn't worse. Thanks for sending me the pics. I'm still in shock. haha.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

May God give each of you a boyfriend.

Hope everything is going well this week. Hope school is going well. Hope you are starting to feel better Erin. Sounds like fall is in full swing at home. I'm jealous about all the fresh produce that came out of the garden and I think a lot about homemade soup, fresh bread, and the leaves changing colors this time of year, October has always been my favorite month. Haha, meanwhile I am sweating up a storm. But that's life here in Puerto Rico.

 I'm sorry to hear about Ben Jacobsen passing away. My condolences go out to the Jacobsen family. Even though I don't know Ben very well, Charlotte and Ted and Rosie and Dennis are so amazing. I'm praying for them.

So another week has gone by here in Arecibo. It's going by so fast. I still can't believe that in two weeks I will have been out a year. Things are really good here in Arecibo. As I have said, this place is amazing. There are really people prepared to hear the gospel and we are finding a lot of people. I might not have made it very clear in my emails but these last few transfers have been really rough for me. Really rough. Between working in an area that was just really struggling, not having a lot of work (except Nicole who is amazing), car accident, sick companions, it was a rough few transfers for me. But things are getting a lot better, not one hundred percent perfect, but a lot better. Our district leader shared a scripture with us this week in D&C 58:1-4 that really helped me a ton. We are seeing the fruits of it now. Sometimes we don't know why we have to go through things but there is a purpose behind everything. I stayed in my last area for 6 months because even though at times I was antsy for a change, we sisters needed to be there to teach Nicole. We are here in Arecibo for a reason and we are finding a lot of really prepared people. The blessings come after the trials.

We are still working with Denis and his family. He's getting baptized next weekend. His grandfather is going to baptize him instead of his Dad but his dad is still progressing towards receiving the priesthood which is great. We found the most amazing investigator named Jennifer. Wow, she really is what you would call a golden investigator. She has gone through and is going through a lot of hard things right now and told us that she was losing her faith. When we showed up at her door she just felt like she had to listen to us. She has the most amazing questions and she is progressing a lot. Her 11 year old daughter is as excited as well. She was going to come to church Sunday but woke up really sick and called us and said she wouldn't be able to go. She told us that she later went into to her daughter's room and saw that her daughter had laid out the only skirt that she had and her best shoes at the end of the bed to get ready to go. When we arrived she had read the pamphlet that we gave to her and she had highlighted it in different colors, but didn't understand anything she had read. But they are so great and we are really excited for them. We are finding a lot of people and as President promised us, we are finding families. Families! Wow, that is just amazing. It doesn't happen very often that whole families get baptized here. Very rarely are there baptisms with mom, dad and kids. That is the goal that we are working on as a mission; teaching complete families and it is pretty hard. We are so used to teaching individuals and teaching a complete family has its challenges. It's harder to make sure everyone is at home at the same time so they can progress at the same rate, they all have different needs, different doubts, for example it's hard to teach the law of chastity to a ten year old and to an adult at the same time. But we are learning a ton and I know that we are going to see a lot of great things these next few transfers.

So... funny story. I thought of Rachel the other day when we were out knocking doors. Remember how Rach would jokingly say that she wanted a boyfriend for christmas or that she wanted a brother-in-law? Well I don't know why but I thought of her. When we contacted an older man the other day, he told us that he lived there with his "novia" (meaning girlfriend); that they'd been married for 50 years. He asked us if we had boyfriends. Lots of people ask that, the other day a woman told my companion that if she liked Puerto Rico all she had to do to be able to stay is find a boyfriend get married and then she could stay here forever and not have to worry about her Visa expiring. We didn't mention that would be just a little bit against mission rules. Well anyway... this man, as we walked away from his house yells out at the top of his lungs, really loud too, "Que papa Dios le de un novio a cada una!!!" In other words... my God give a boyfriend to each one of you. It was pretty funny. I don't know why but it just made me think of Rachel's Christmas wish. So to those of you who are looking for a boyfriend "Que papa dios le de un novio a cada una". Most of my friends that might be reading my blog are probably all married or engaged by now. Haha.

Anyway love you all a ton. Hope you have a great week.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nicole got Baptized

Hey Everyone,

Hope your week has been going well. Rach, what's this about a conference in Washington DC? Sounds cool. You'll have to tell me more about it. Wish you were feeling better Erin. I'm sorry that you are still so sick. By the way my companion was really appreciative for your letter it totally made her day. She very rarely gets letters from home because postage is so expensive and the mail is so unreliable there. So thanks. Hope school is going well for everyone. You'll have to tell me all about it. Ab, how's freshman year going? Thanks Steph for your email. I love hearing from you and I'm so glad that things are going well for you in Boston.
Nicole's Baptism
This week has been amazing! Nicole was baptized Saturday and everything went really well. It was so great to see her so excited and her parents were both there and they were pretty happy too. Even though her mom has had a really rough time she came to the baptism. They took like 100 pictures it was really cute to see that even though they were a little hesitant they were really proud of their daughter.

Just as amazing, was an experience that we had on Sunday. We are teaching a ten year old boy named Denis. His father is less active but Denis has been going to church with his grandparents. Well his father has been to church twice now and is changing his life around preparing to receive the office of priest and be able to baptize his son. Wow, he bore an amazing testimony of how he just knew that he need to come back to church and be able to baptize his son. He shared a really great experience that he had in General Conference, and he knew that this is where he needed to be. He is working with the branch president so that he can receive the office of priest and be able to baptize his son on the 30th of October. It was so amazing to hear his testimony and see how he wants to change for the better so he can be a worthy priesthood holder. Really that is almost just as good or better than a baptism.

Watching General Conference

We, we've been working really hard this week and we've seen a lot of success. The work is really picking up here. It's so crazy to think that this transfer is going by so fast we have just two more weeks in the transfer here. It is going to by way too fast as is the mission. I've almost been out a year! That's so crazy. Well I am sending some pictures. Not too many but here is one of me and Nicole at her baptism and one of us with Hermana Rodriguez at General Conference. Haha, one of the few times that I have worn a sweater in Puerto Rico. They always crank up the air conditioning inside the church because it is so hot outside. The men with their suits are just fine but all the women are always freezing. It's kind of like church at home haha. The other pictures are of my last district when we were serving in Toa Baja.

Clouds above Toa Baja
 Puerto Rican clouds; the skies are really beautiful here. Nicole's baptism was very well attended by missionaries because there were the two sets of elders that are now in Toa Baja, us becuase we got permission to go. and two sets of elders from another ward in the stake that came with investigators to see a baptism. Anyway, love you all a ton. Keep me updated on whats going on at home.

Love you all!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Water up to our ankles

Hey Everyone,

So this week has been really good. It's been pretty crazy. It's been raining a ton here. The streets here in Arecibo flood when it rains, well when it rains really hard. It's crazy, water up to your ankles in some streets. One of the entrances to neighborhood where we live is still closed 4 days later because they are fixing things. It's been crazy. And it's been really hard because the people aren't in the street it's hard to contact people because everyone is hiding inside. President told us that we couldn't go to the saturday session of general conference if we didn't meet our goals so everyone was working so hard to make their goals. It was really rough and we had to wake up super early so we could study earlier and go out and work earlier so that we could finish getting our contacts. (not as early as you have to get up on tuesdays, Mom and Dad, I have a lot of respect for you). We had to go to Toa Baja to see the conference but wow, I'm really glad that we were able to go because it was amazing. What an amazing weekend. I am so grateful for living prophets!

Nicole is getting baptized this weekend. Its finally here. She is so ready. We are really excited because we are able to go President gave us permission to go which is so exciting. We are still on the search for families. We are seeing so many small miracles in Arecibo. We are finding people who are prepared to receive the gospel. we are teaching a lot of part member families, a newly married couple, she's a member he's not and he accepted the invitation to be baptized. It's just been a really great week. It's been a really hard last few transfers but its so great to be working in Arecibo where there is a lot of work to be done and we are seeing a lot of success.

Well hope everything is going well at home. Hope your quilt convention goes well mom and you don't get back problems from lugging around a sewing machine and a computer. haha. Love you all a ton.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Loving Arecibo

Hey Everyone,

Sounds like everything is going well at home. I'm glad school is going well good luck with midterms and all your classes. Law club? Wow, Rachel the lawyer. Haha. I think that is really cool. You'll have to let me know how you like that. Erin, I hope you start feeling better soon. I'm so sorry you've been so sick. Good luck with getting Spring City ready that's really amazing that they are going to put it in a book. Hey Dad, I have seen the Arecibo Observatory it's not too far away from where we live. I didn't know it was so famous. That's cool. Oh and that's cool what you sent me about BYU.

Arecibo is really great. It's pretty cool being so close the ocean. We were knocking doors on this urb that's right on the edge of the water. It's so beautiful here. I am constantly surprised at the excitement of the members to work in the mission work. Wow, all of the leaders are focusing so much on bringing back the less active members and they are so excited to go out and work. We are just working really hard right now to be able to find more people. Nicole is amazing she is so excited for her baptism. If it weren't for General Conference this weekend she would be getting baptized this weekend. Her mom is having a pretty hard time and has a ton of questions about things like thinking that once Nicole gets baptized she'll be shipped off to who knows where to serve a two year mission and also she has doubts like she heard somewhere that Joseph Smith was a delinquent. It's been really hard for Nicole and seeing as her mom doesn't want to listen to the missionaries in Toa Baja and know we are here but we are trying to help her stay positive and help her mom understand.

We had the most amazing two day conference. It was a special conference that president does for just the leaders in the mission but this time he invited all of the sisters. These conferences that he has are always amazing supposedly and we were excited to get invited. But we had to meet our goals of having 140 contacts and 20 lessons for the week. Well that was a little bit crazy becuase with white washing and all we haven't had that many investigators yet. But we were so determined that we needed to be at that conference. So we worked ridiculously hard. After a lot of prayer we were able to make our goal and we found 11 new investigators this week. The conference was amazing! Wow, words can't describe the spirit that was there. President and his wife are amazing! We focused on teaching people and not lessons and specifically on teaching families. Very rarely are entire families baptized. But that is the goal that we are baptizing families. We have started focusing on the family and practicing teaching families. Often in the morning during our studies or in district meetings when we practice we are teaching our companion but he wants us now to focus on teaching a family. The whole conference we taught groups of 4 or 5 missionaries treating them as though they were a family. It's so true, usually we teach individuals and it is a whole different story teaching a family where you have to teach in a different style to catch the attention of the kids or each person has a different doubt or understands differently. He wants us to draw a picture of a family and put on our wall and practice teaching them instead of our companion. I know that sounds weird but it really changed the way we are teaching. Focusing on teaching families is really going to change the mission work here. It's exactly what Puerto Rico needs, a message about the family. It's what the whole world needs because Satan is attacking the family. Wow, when I think about how the gospel has blessed my family and how amazing it is to know that mom and dad were sealed in the temple. If every person could hear about how much that blesses the family, it would be amazing. Puerto Rico needs to hear about families and we need to bring back those families that have been lost so that we can build the church here and one day have a temple.

I can't believe I have almost been out a year. This time of year last year I was getting ready to go finish my job at ancestry and getting ready to go into the MTC. It is going by way too fast and I still feel like I just got here. There is so much to learn and time is going by way too fast. It's almost General Conference time. Crazy huh? We will be watching it in the stake center in Toa Baja. I'm super excited and it will be fun to see people because I wasn't able to say goodbye to people before we came to Arecibo. That's the good thing about still being in the same stake the whole time, even though we are over an a hour away and it doesn't feel like we are in the same stake. Well anyway, wish I had some more exciting things to write about. I'll try and send you some more pictures when I have a chance.

 Love you all a ton!
Say hi to everyone for me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arecibo is amazing!

Hey Everyone,

Hope everything is going well. Sounds like Dad is having fun chasing trains. haha. Hope you start feeling better Erin, and hope school is going well for all of you. You'll have to let me know how everything is going at BYU. Thanks for the postcard ab, I love getting a postcard from my home town. Sounds like you have been super busy mom. Good luck with all that. It's too bad you can't fedex me some warm homemade bread and some homemade soup, there's nothing like that here and it's too hot to eat soup. Tell everyone in the ward hi for me.

It was sad to leave Toa Baja especially after being there 6 months and President told us to just pack and leave we were aren't to say goodbye to anyone, just our investigators. So that was extremely hard. But luckily since Arecibo is the same stake I might be able to see some of them at General Conference. It's crazy that it's almost October. Well it's been a crazy week. Whitewashing an area (when two brand new missionaries that don't know an area are sent there) is crazy but the branch is amazing. We are still getting lost and we don't have too many people to teach but we are finding a few and we are teaching Nicole who is amazing. She is getting baptized the 8th of October. We were going to do it a week earlier but because it General Conference and she would have to wait a week to be confirmed on the 9th she decided to do it on the 8th. We are looking for people to teach but when we do I know we are going to have a lot of success because the branch is so amazing. It is a branch but it's just about the same size in attendance as my last two wards. The branch is really unified and the members are working really hard with the missionary work. Because for awhile there weren't missionaries the members really stepped up and starting doing some amazing things. One thing that they do every thursday night is called visitas de pastoreo which are basically where everyone meets at the church and they are assigned to go out and look for less active members and invite them to come back to church. They have seen a lot of success and the members are really excited about it. The member attendance in missionary correlation meeting last night was phenominal, I have never seen anything like it. There are missionary firesides and Cine Mormon activities where they show church movies. It's really quite amazing, after not have missionaries they have really realized that they have a big role in the mission work. We have quite a few part member families and less active families that the leaders have asked us to work with and we are really excited and I'm sure the work will start picking up once we are able to contact them and start teaching on a regular basis.

The area that we are working in is actually pretty small. President wants us to work close to the church and mostly on foot. The branch area is huge but he wants us to focus on areas close to the chapel and doesn't want us to go into the country. Our apartment is about five minutes from the church and we live about ten minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. Arecibo doesn't have beaches its more like rocks but it's really pretty cool to look out and see the Atlantic Ocean. It's been awhile since I'm been in the city and it reminds me of being back in Bayamon.

Well anyway I have to go we have to meet a member to go teach Nicole. Hope things are going well.

 Love you all!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Transferred to Arecibo

Hey Everyone,

So p-day was wednesday it looks like President Alvarado won't be changing p-days on transfer week like we used to do which makes this p-day extremely busy, including packing, moving and unpacking because they are sending us both to Arecibo which is about an hour west of Toa Baja. Hermana Rodriguez and I are staying together and we are going to open up an area which is has been closed for a transfer and there were Elders there. It is a small branch so it will be the first time serving in a branch. Apparantly the members are amazing and President told us that he is confident that we are going to have a lot of success there.

I'm sorry to here that Rach and Erin haven't been feeling well. That's awesome mom that they voted you president. It will be really fun. Hope you are having fun with school. It's so weird to think that another year of BYU has started sometimes I feel so far away. I really have no idea what is going on in the world right now. haha it's pretty weird. Tell everyone hi for me and tell Ashley congratulations I can't wait to see pictures of her new baby. Tell Grandma and Grandpa hi, I got there letter. I'll try and write them when I get a chance.

This weekend has been great. We taught Nicole on Friday and she invited her Mom so that her mom could hear a little bit becuase her parents aren't too excited about her getting baptized. Well talk about being nervous! Her mom just sat there observing us teach not saying anything. We had no idea if she thought we were crazy, she had one doubt that we were able to resolve but we left the lesson not knowing if that made it better or worse for Nicole. Well she called us that night and told us that her parents both gave permission for her to get baptized. She doesn't need it becuase she turned 18 this week but they both said that it would be okay. Apparantly her mom was able to feel the spirit and see that this was something good for her daughter. Well Nicole told us that she wants to be baptized right away. She doesn't want to wait for anything. But its a little hard becuase she lives in Arecibo during the week and we can't teach her much. She said it doesn't matter, I'll come home early friday and you can teach me friday and saturday and every day off I have i'll come home. So we said okay we'll move the baptism up. Her dad came to church on Sunday and the priesthood received him very well.

It was a little crazy becuase we had interviews with President and he asked us about Nicole and he basically asked why we were waiting to baptize her so long he was like "what are you waiting for?" Then he told us "well you are going to teach her quickly because I am moving you to Arecibo and I want you to keep teaching her there doing the week and I will give you special permission so you can go to her baptism". Wow, you can't imagine our suprise. We were really sad becuase we pretty much knew that they were going to close our area or at least move me because I've been here so long and I wouldn't be able to see her baptism. But look at that, we are going to keep teaching her in Arecibo where she goes to school! President told us that he has been thinking all transfer what he is going to do with Arecibo and he still didn't know what to do with that area until we came into his office and he just knew that that is where he needed to send us. We are extremely excited, a little nervous but we are excited to go to work in a place that is city and there haven't been missionaries for awhile and the branch is ready and excited to work. It's really sad to leave Toa Baja becuase I love the members there so much but it's been a hard few transfers there because there just aren't enough people to teach. But at the same time I know that our efforts aren't wasted. We may not see the fruits of our work when it comes to numbers but we've seen some small miracles that I know that we needed to be there and there is a reason that they kept me there for 6 months. So I'll let you know how it goes. We have to run off now and find our new apartment and go to work. Love you all. I think of you all the time. Sorry I don't have hours and hours to write our I would tell you everything.

Oh by the way, President wanted me to give you a heads up. Hermana Rodriguez and I both hit 18 months on May 4. He told us monday that he would like us to extend an extra month. It's still really far away. I will have to see when summer term starts at byu because I have to take a few classes. Rach or Ab, could you find out for me? Anyway that is really far away but he wanted us to give you a heads up that he might send us home in the beginning of June. It's crazy to think that far out I still feel like I just got here and I don't want to think about going home yet.

Anyways, love you all.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Spirit Teaches

Hey Everyone,

Thanks for all the emails. I'm sorry you've been so sick Erin, that's rough. I hope that school is going well for all of you. Thanks for everyone who is praying for me, haha and Rach tell Karen hi for me and thanks for standing up for me, I'm sure the extra prayers have helped. Ab, I hope school is going well for you, haha, I know how it feels to be in the dorms, the food gets old that's why its so great to finally get your own apartment, hope you get my letter soon, I gave you some ideas of how to mix it up a little bit. Tell everyone hi for me. This is a shout out to Katie Matthews and Steph Brinton, thanks for your letters. Sorry I can't write back too fast but I love getting your emails, letters are coming soon. Katie your email made me laugh, I would suggest making a list to pass around to make sure that none of your students are allergic to anything else. Good luck with school, I'm sure the kids love you.

Well things are pretty good here. It's been extremely rainy as you can imagine. But no other hurricanes which is really good. We have been having a sort of rough week because we don't have tons of people to teach but we were able to find a few new people this week and we are starting to work more with less active members. We have so many amazing less active members and I know that maybe the reason we don't have investigators is so that we can focus on trying to find them and help them come back to church. The one investigator we do have is amazing! Nicole is the golden investigator of golden investigators. As she requested we talked about baptism on Saturday. The sister in our ward that met nicole at the church offices came with us. Wow, such an amazing lesson. Nicole told us that when she was at the baptism she felt the spirit so strong and when she heard the words in the confirmation "confirm you a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" she knew that that was her answer, she told us that she knew that "this is where I need to be". Nicole accepted a baptism date for October 30 its about two months away but we have to have time to teach her because she is only here on weekends because she goes to school during the week in an area where there are no missions right now. The most interesting and humbling thing happened. We prepared very well for the lesson but that day I don't know what was up but I was not teaching well. Every word that came out of my mouth came out wrong, I asked confusing questions, it was really weird. I was like wow, what is wrong with me today? When I got to that point I asked Hermana Colon to share her testimony or to share some experience. It's amazing how the spirit works. Because that day, nicole didn't need to hear my teach she needed to hear Hermana Colon. Hermana Colon shared the most amazing testimony and explained things that Nicole needed, and Hermana Colon didn't know but the spirit really guided her. It was a very humbling experience for me. The worst lesson I have probably taught on my mission, ended up being so amazing because the spirit was so strong, because we had a member there and because Nicole is truly prepared and had already decided that she wants to be baptized.

The next day we went to visit a member, and her son who is our age was baptized but is visiting another church right now. He was sort of argueing with his mom about doctrine when we came. He had a lot of doubts and he was in the mood to argue. But we ended up having an really amazing discussion in which we explained several basic doctrines. I know that the spirit was putting words in my mouth because I was saying things that I hadn't planned to say, in complete contrast to the day before my mind was clear and the words just came out. The spirit was really strong and he really stopped argueing and listened and I know that he felt the spirit. It really goes to show that we as missionaries really don't do that much. It isn't us that does the teaching its the spirit. There was a reason that I felt like everything came out all wrong when I opened my mouth on saturday and on sunday it all came out right. It was a very humbling experience.

Its awesome because Nicole called us Saturday afternoon a few hours after we left her house she was worried because she was looking at the calendar and saw that the 30th was a saturday and since the baptism she saw was on a sunday she wanted to call and double check to make sure it was on sunday. She's so awesome. Well her mom doesn't really like the idea that she is getting baptized since nicole has only been to church three times but Nicole is determined that she is going to do it. I've never seen anyone so excited to get baptized before. It's awesome. Sometimes the mission is hard. a lot of times the mission is hard. Even though we don't have a lot of people that we are teaching but thats okay. it really goes to show that there really are people that are prepared that are ready to hear the gospel.

Well just so you know, next week is transfers, who knows what will happen but there is a chance that p-day will be moved to monday or tuesday, just so you know.

Love you all. Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurricane Not Too Bad.

Hey Everyone,
Thanks for your emails. No worries; I am fine the hurricanes haven't hit hard in Puerto Rico.  We had to be inside at 6:30 but it didn't hit as hard as we thought it would. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous, having never been in a hurricane before and not being able to watch tv and see the details of the storm, but it was actually pretty tame. We stayed the night at a member's house and we were actually surprised becuase even though we got a lot of rain it wasn't as much as we thought and the winds weren't that strong. We lost power for about an hour or two but that's all. The most damage that we saw was a lot of branches from trees that were in the street but I'm not sure about other parts of Puerto Rico or the Carribean its pretty weird being completely cut off from the world we don't hear anything that is going on. So hopefully there isn't too much damage from the hurricanes. No worries, they make sure that we are inside and we have a really good supply of food and water. and the members and our leaders keep us updated on what's going on so we will know that there is a hurricane coming. Hopefully there won't be too many more it's hard to work and to find people when we have to cancel our appointments and the people aren't in the mood to talk when they are rushing to prep for the hurricane.

I'm sorry to hear that you aren't feeling well Erin. That's rough. Hopefully you get better soon. Tell Liz congratulations for me and you'll have to send me pictures for sure. Thanks for sending me Katie's address. Sounds like things are going well with school for everyone.  Rach, write me and let me know how school is going.

Things have been pretty good here. We are still teaching Nicole. She is amazing. It's hard because she is studying an hour away and we can only teach her on weekends but she is reading the Book of Mormon and she loves it. We asked her if she had read the Book of Mormon and she said yes but I haven't finished so we asked her how far she had gotten thinking that she didn't have time to finish the chapter that we had left, but really she meant the she hadn't finished the BOOK yet. She had read up until part way through 2 Nephi! That's a lot considering she is studying full time in the university and commuting. She came to church and brought her little sister and they stayed for a baptism afterwards of an 8 year old boy. She called us later that afternoon and asked if we had already planned what we were going to teach her on saturday. We asked why and she said that she wanted to know if we could teach her about baptism because she felt something really special at the baptism and she wanted to know why. So of course we said that there would be no problem in talking about baptism on saturday. She's really great.

Other than her we don't have a lot of appointments which has been hard but we are going to be really busy this week because the bishop has given us a new assignment to go find every single member on the ward list. We have ten names each week that we need to report back on becuase there are about 400 individuals. That doesn't sound like a lot but most of them don't have addresses or phone numbers that work because most people in Toa Alta only have PO box numbers or a highway with kilometer numbers but no house numbers. But we are on the search trying to use what little info we have and asking members and we are certain that this will help not only with reactivation but also to find other people to teach because many of these people have family members that aren't members.

Well anyway hope everything is going well at home and that work and school aren't too stressful.
 Love you all a ton!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rear-ended by another car...but we're OK

Thanks for the emails. Sounds like its going to be an exciting week. Good luck at BYU, AB. You are going to love it! Write me and tell me all about orientation and your first week. Rach, where are you living this year and with who? Erin, that's so awesome to hear about the story for LDS Living. I'm glad you got the offer and you were able to have time enough to prepare for the article. It's crazy to think that another school year is starting. So weird, I would be starting year number 5 and would have already done an internship probably. Wow, I can't believe how different my life would be right now if I wasn't on a mission. No regrets. The mission is awesome.

Well sorry I wasn't able to write last week barely at all. No worries, after the car accident we are doing okay. Still a little sore in the neck and in my back but i'm good. It could have been much worse so I'm glad we are okay. I'm not going to lie it's been a few rough weeks. There have definately been some highs and lows. But I have learned a lot and have had some really amazing experiences. Last weekend we had the amazing experience to have Elder Vinas who the area 70 over the carribean visit Puerto Rico. He was present for our stake conference and a zone conference that we had on monday. Wow, amazing! The spirit was really strong and I learned a lot. It was a hard weekend for me. I was feeling really down because we haven't seen progress with some of our investigators and we have lost contact with some of them as well. I was feeling down because Jose hasn't been coming to church and madeline moved to the states with her uncle and we've lost contact with her. I have no idea where she lives and I don't think she knows where the church is we've been trying to find out but with no luck yet. I was feeling really down but it was an amazing experience to see members from the Bayamon ward on sunday. I was able to see Emma! Wow, it was so great to see her. She looks so happy. She's going through some really hard things right now but it's amazing to see the difference in her countenance. She is already planning to go to the temple when she passes the year mark of her baptism. Her daughter is not a member but came to Salt Lake on a business trip and visited temple square. They are planning on going next summer, when I'll be home! I also saw another family who got baptized a year ago in June. They are moved to Tampa Florida next week and are going to be sealed in the temple. The wife gave me this huge hug and wouldn't let go. She was so happy. Her story is amazing and after all the trials she has gone through she deserves to have the blessing of being sealed in the temple with her family. Monday came and during our zone conference President shared with us that he had been in the recent convert meeting that they had with all the recent converts in the last two years. They had this meeting with Elder Vinas sunday morning. He shared with us, and looked right at me, and told us how Emma had born her testimony of how she has changed since she came in contact with the missionaries and how she felt that as a woman she had no value but how coming to know the gospel her life has changed completely. I lost it, I was crying really hard. It's really hard sometimes as a missionary, to see so many people not accept the gospel and to see the things that so many people struggle with. But it makes it all worth it when you hear about the difference that is made in the life of even just one person. Anyway, I just thought I would share that with you. Even though being on a mission is really hard sometimes, there is nothing better in the world.

We've had a few hard weeks but heavenly father has really blessed us and we have been able to come in contact with a few amazing people. One is named Nicole, she is 17 and she found out about the church through a friend on facebook. This friend talked about the church with her through facebook, sent her videos and she has been looking at the church website and trying to find out more about it. She looked up the address of the church and showed up on friday to the mission office and talked with a member of our ward that works in the seminary and institute office. She referred Nicole to us and we taught her the first lesson saturday morning. She is amazing! She has a lot of good questions and she is excited to learn. She came to church sunday and loved it. She had some really good questions too.

We found another really amazing family whose names are Josue and Charlene, they have two little boys. We had a really great first lesson with them and they were going to come to church on sunday we called them afterwards to find out what happened and Josue said that his wife didn't feel comfortable because she didn't have a shirt with sleeves. We are really excited about them.

Anyway good luck this week with starting school, and with your story Erin, and I'm excited that you are working in the temple, Mom and Dad. I know you will have some amazing experiences there. Tell everyone hi for me!

Hermana Barker

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Car Accident

Hey I won't be able to write very much today. I'm sorry this keeps happening. But this is why. Last night as we were driving we were stopped in some traffic and a girl ran into us from behind. We called the police and they came and we called the people in the office who were supposed to call and at first we just felt a little whiplash It didn't seem that bad the airbags didn't come out or anything and the car was dented from behind and in front from the car that she pushed us into. The Alvarados were in St. Kits and weren't reachable until late. They told us to go the next morning to this place called ACAA where they would check us from head to toe and work with the insurance and everything. But this morning I woke up and felt much worse my back hurt and Hermana Rodriguez has some neck and shoulder pain from the whiplash. Well the doctor they sent us to is closed all day until now. So we are going to leave and go right and have everything checked out. I am fine don't worry. I'm sure its just whiplash. But please pray for me so that we can feel better. I didn't want to worry you but I figured that I should tell you so that you would know. I love you all I'll write more later. But this day has been crazy and we don't have time. I'm sure if you have questions you can call the mission office and they'll be able to explain how i'm feeling. I'm sorry to scare you. But I knew that I should let you know.

Love you all! I'll write a big long letter next week I promise!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summertime in Puerto Rico-9 months in

Hey Everyone,

Well, it is officially summertime in Puerto Rico.  Haha, I don't think I have ever sweated so much in my life. Well, that's life.  I can't even imagine what 50 degrees in foggy San Francisco would feel like.  It's weird to even think about putting a jacket on.  Sounds like you had a lot of fun on your trip.  I'm jealous you went to see Wicked; I've always wanted to see it.  That's awesome.  Wow, it's crazy to think how fast time flies. Abby will be a college student in two weeks.  Weird but I'm so excited for you.  Erin, I'm praying for you so that you will be able to get everything done that you need to and that it will turn out well.  I know it will.

So I am still here in Toa Baja. Transfer #4!  Wow, I've been here in the Toa Baja Stake all 9 months.  But that's okay because I love my companion and I am really excited for another transfer with her.  She is amazing and we have a lot of fun together.  Well this week has been pretty great.  I don't know if I told you about Maria.  If I did sorry I'll repeat myself.  So we have to go back to the beginning of my mission to explain this story.  When I got here my first day and we opened the area of Bayamon the Elders told us we had several investigators with baptism dates one of them was named Maria Colon.  She lived in Naranjito and a member showed us where her house was the first week but she only pointed it out quickly as we drove by.  We tried to call her and get a hold of her for weeks.  We called, left messages, we went by where we thought her house was but it turned out it wasn't her house.  We searched every house that was white with two levels along that entire highway and we could never find where she lived or if she lived there she was never home.  Eventually after weeks we decided that she must not be interested or she would have returned our calls.  But I remember being so determined, we have to find her.  Let's just check this one more house. My trainer humored me and we looked for a long time but I just felt like we really needed to find her.  We worked a lot in that area, until we found out that it was actually part of Toa Baja ward and not our area, the elders had gotten confused with the boundaries and told us wrong that's what happens in areas that are pretty rural.

Well you can imagine my surprise when we received a phone call from another set of sister missionaries and they told us that they had received a call from a woman named Maria Colon that lived in Naranjito and we had an appointment saturday.  Well it turns out that it was her.  She had had a whole bunch of family problems and that's when she lost contact with the missionaries but she ran into some elders that had taught her earlier that were serving in another part of the island and that's when she decided to call the old phone number she had and got in touch with the other sisters.  Well it turns out that she had known elders for a long time when she lived in the Caparra ward.  Her nephew that used to live with her was baptized a little more than a year ago.  She loves the missionaries, loves the Book of Mormon has read it all the way through.  She has a really strong testimony of Joseph Smith.  She has gone through a lot of really hard things these last 9 months but she found a way to bring the gospel back in her life and she is now preparing to be baptized on September 4th.  It's so crazy to think that I am now teaching this woman that we spent so much time looking for 9 months ago.   Anyway, I am still in shock that she was able to reconnect with us.  Tturns out she lives about four houses away from an investigator we taught many times.  Either we didn't see it because it is hidden or if we did go by in the many times we looked for her she wasn't home.  Anyway she's amazing and we are excited.

Well other news...we are looking for new ways to find people other than just knocking doors.  Becuase knocking isn't that effective.  Especially since so many other religions here do the same.  People get tired of people going door to door.   As a district we are trying to get more creative and after thinking for awhile we have come up with some ideas.  For example, we have a million Liahona magazines that have been gathered from over the years.  Somehow we have some months that we have 2 or 3 copies of the same so we are going to take them to doctor's offices nearby and ask if we can leave them in the waiting room for people to read and we put little notes that have the address of the church and  We are asking members that have their own businesses to place pamphlets and cards for people to take and we are asking members, especially the youth, to go look online at and and find videos that they like and then use facebook to share those videos with their friends.  So this is a shout out to any friends or family especially those that have served missions.  Any other cool ideas would be appreciated. Send them to me and we'll try them out.  Anyway, I have to go but I love you all.  Thanks for your emails and for the pics.  Erin, that pic made my day.  Send me more I love having them.

Anyway, hope you have a great week.                                                             Great tropical fruit here.  It
                                                                                                                        makes great juice.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Halfway through my mission!

Hey Everyone,
PDay was changed again. Becuase it is transfer week. Transfers are tommorrow but we still haven't heard if either one of us is going. We are waiting for the phone call so if they call I guess I'll have to run home and pack pretty fast. So I just remembered that you are probably all in San Francisco. I hope you have fun.

Well this week has been pretty crazy. We've been having a hard time getting set appointments with our investigators, lots of cancelling or some of our investigators lost interest. We have a few awesome youth that are still coming but their parents aren't too thrilled about it and we haven't been able to teach them on a regular basis but we are praying hard for them becuase they are amazing. But after a pretty hard week, we started our fast saturday afternoon. We were praying hard that we would be able to find a more people to teach because we hadn't found very many people knocking doors lately. Before going to knock we prayed to know where we should go to knock doors. Hermana Rodriguez thought of place that she had been thinking about for a few days but we were never close by but she felt that we should go there. Well, the very first house that we called at a young girl named Lisa came out and after I started talking to her, I'm not kidding after only saying about 5 words, I could see her face and I just knew that she would let us in and I don't know how to describe it but I also knew that I she would accept a baptism invitation. We had been practicing this week to teach more with the spirit and focusing on teaching the doctrine of Christ as President has asked us to do. The difference was amazing. The spirit was very strong, it was one of the best first lessons I have had on my mission. Well her twin sister Gina joined us in the lesson and at the end they both accepted baptism dates. Their older brother was listening to the missionaries 5 years ago. We are so excited to keep working with this family. The next day sunday we found another really amazing family that we have an appointment with tonight. I know that Heavenly Father helps us find those people that are prepared to receive the gospel. I am really thankful for the spirit that comes with fasting and prayer. The mission is amazing!

Well it's hard to believe but tomorrow is my 9 month mark! So weird. It is going by really fast and I can't believe that I've been here that long. I still feel like there is so much to learn and I don't want it to go by too fast. Anyway let me know how everything is going over there. Sorry once again I won't be able to read your emails this week. Soon things will get back to normal and p-days will be on wednesday. Anyway I love you all. Have a great week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday P-day again.

Hey Everyone,

Sorry I couldn't really write last week cause I only had like 10 minutes. Puerto Rico has so many holidays, its a good thing that our p-days will be on wednesday from now on. Thanks for all the emails. Sounds like you had a ton of fun in Spring City sounds like you all had a ton of fun. Wow, that's really cool that you got called to be temple workers mom and dad. I know you will have the most amazing experience. I can't wait to be able to go to the temple when I get back I really miss it. I have always taken for granted that we have a temple so close by. Ab, how did registration go? Did you get all the classes you wanted?

Well things are pretty good here. We are still working with Julio, he knows that he needs to make the decision about whether or not to be baptized but he says that he hasn't received an answer yet. We are just working with him to try and help him with his doubts. He is really confused about lots of things because he has been to so many different churches that he is really confused especially about things like gifts of the spirit and things like that. It's a common problem here because there is so much confusion about religion. Lots of evangelical churches and pentecostal churches. He has visited just about everyone of them. We are also working with Linette still. Wow, she is amazing. We have only been able to visit her once recently. But Hermana Torro told us that her mom had told her that come August she couldn't go to church anymore. Linette told her that she would start helping around the house more cleaning etc. if she would let her go to church. So this last week she has been cleaning, babysitting etc and her mom showed up saturday night with a dress and said this is for you to wear to church. The clothes she wears are a little short and inmodest but her mom obviously recognized taht and bought her a really cute modest dress. So we are praying hard for her. She is so amazing. We have a few other investigators but we are looking a lot right now.

One of the new changes with President Alvarado is that all the meetings will be in english, because he wants those that don't speak english to learn english. It's hard because my companion doesn't speak very much english at all but we are trying to speak in english more and practice all the time. He has asked us to focus on the family and to try and find and teach families not just individuals. We are focusing on the doctrine of christ which is faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end. But we are focusing a lot of baptism. Extending baptism dates during the first lesson has been somethign that has been a little hard for me. I have always thought more on the line of I don't want to baptize people too fast or set a baptism date if they don't understand very much because I don't want them to go inactive right away. I also worry that people are going to be like wait wait wait I just met you half an hour ago why are you asking me to get baptized? So that's been hard for me. I have spent a lot of time thinking about it and praying about it. We've had a few people that reacted that way but we've also had some really spiritual lessons. I know that this is not only what President Alvarado wants us to do but what the other church leaders want us to do it is helping us focus more on teaching with the spirit and helping us know if the people are prepared or if they just want to learn about the church. That happens a lot, people are taking the lessons but they have no intention of every attending church or being baptized they just like to learn. But I know that as I stretch myself and even though I sometimes don't have the most confidence in my teaching I know that as we continue to try and teach more with the spirit we will see some changes. We are already seeing that as we practice teaching it differently there is a different spirit that we aren't just here to convince people that this is the true church but to teach them the doctrines that will help them gain eternal life and not just individually but as a family. Anyway those are some things that I have been working on lately.

Well not much else has been going on here. Hope you all have fun in San Francisco.

Love you all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New P-day this week.

Hey, So we had p-day changed back to monday just for today because President is going to have a meeting with all of the leaders this week. So I hope everything is great sorry I won't be able to read your emails until next wednesday. Not much is new here since I just wrote on wednesday. Still working hard in Toa Baja. We found a new investigator really awesome on saturday knocking doors in a new area. And for the first time we were able to set a baptismal date during the first lesson. His name is Jesus and he is really awesome. So we're excited. This morning we had our first interviews with President Alvarado. Wow! Amazing. The spirit was so strong and we learned a lot. He is very different from President Martineau but really great. The spirit is really strong whenever he talks or teaches but wow he helped us a lot to know how to work better with our ward. So amazing. Sorry this is going to be really short because it is a Puerto Rican holiday and all the libraries and universities are closed. We had to come to the office to do email but we don't have much time. But I hope everything is going well. Love you all a ton. PS I don't know if you have time any of you but if you want to write my companion Hermana Rodriguez I know she would love a letter she doesn't get very many being from so far away. Spanish or English cause we are practicing english. Just a thought. Love you all!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Visitors From Home

Hey Everyone!
Wow, what a week. Erin congratulations on your scholarship. Wow, I can't believe that. Well I can, but that is just way too cool. I am so proud to be the sister of this year's winner of "The Flying Pig Grade- A, Number One Ham Humor Award." Haha; trying saying that ten times fast! I laughed forever reading that. That is so cool. I'm going to be laughing about it all week. But the cool thing is that they said that they are excited to sell it in their stores. Good luck with reading it on Monday. I'm sure you'll do great. There is a reason they chose your story.  Just be yourself and they'll love it. Wow! And AB! Congrats on your AP tests. So amazing! I hope you get my email in time and I hope it helps you register for next year. Thanks for the photos Rach sounds like things are going good.

Sounds like you have all been having some crazy adventures. Thanks for the pics. So fun. Wow, mom sounds like you should start selling raspberries.  I can't believe you have so many. PS was that picture real? Is that a cookie?  It's really cool. Thanks for sending the skirt. I really like it.  I think I'm good with clothes for awhile.  You are the best!

So that was a huge surprise to see Rob and Cindy at our ward this sunday when they were visiting their son. So crazy that they were staying in Dorado. We were outside waiting for our investigators when I saw them walking through the parking lot.  It was totally unreal. It was so good to see them. I wasn't able to talk to them much because we had a lot of things to do helping our investigatros and coordinating with the members for visits that week. But I was able to talk to them for a minute and it was really good.

This week has been pretty good. We are still teaching Julio. He didn't come to church this week because he accidentally slept in. But we had a good lesson with him on thursday, although it was pretty crazy because he told us some crazy stories and got really off topic.  We were able to figure out what he needs. The last few lessons he has told us these weird stories that have to do with what he thinks are gifts of the spirit and he told us some weird things like how he has had visions and the gift of tongues (very common here with lots of different churches). So this last lesson we talked about prayer and what the spirit is, because we realized that he is so confused.  He doesn't know what to think because he has a whole life-time of experiences in different churches and everything we have taught is really jumbled in his head. He has been searching for God his whole life and along the way has become really confused. He just needs to ask directly and then wait for the answer. Tonight we are going to teach him-focusing with this goal in mind. We'll see how it goes. He has a lot of potential.

We have also another investigator, Linnette, who has been coming to church with the Torro family. She is amazing! She is reading the Book of Mormon and when she has a question or doesn't understand a word she writes it down and looks it up in the Guia de las escrituras or she calls Hermana Torro and asks her. She wants to get baptized but her parents are not too excited about her going to church. Her mom is rarely at home and won't let us come by unless she is there. It is almost impossible to visit her but we know that if we can just keep getting to know the parents and get them to gain confidence in us we will be able to teach her more regularly. She fasted on fast sunday even though she didn't come to church. She told us that it was really hard becuase she was on vacation with her family and everyone kept offering her food. Hermana Torro later told us that she fasted with the purpose of having her parents be more open to her going to church and listening to the missionaries. She is so amazing!

So... funny experience this week. Haha! Well we are teaching an older couple named Luz Divina and Angel. Well mostly we are teaching Luz becuase angel doesn't really understand much. Angel is pretty crazy. He is this really old guy and he likes to sing and he recites poetry and he likes to talk a lot. His wife told us he is in the early stages of alzheimers.  It's pretty crazy cause sometimes he tells us random stories and we have to try and get back to the point in the lesson. And he really likes to give us food. Well they gave us food and then he brings out this little pound cake that was in this tinfoil tray. Then he hands my this huge knife. I mean huge!It's like a butcher knife (well maybe not a butcher knife but imagine the biggest knife that mom has in the kitchen) and he tells me to cut the cake. So as I start to cut this little cake with this giant knife he yells "wait!" So I am sitting there with the tip of this giant knife in the cake, wondering, "What in the world?"  I don't know if I should pull it out or keep going so I just left it there the tip in the cake. He grabs a guitar from behind the couch and starts singing, "Happy Birthday to You!" in English. I wish I had a picture becuase I can just imagine my face and my companion said it was priceless. Here I am knife still raised with the tip just barely in the cake completely confused while Angel sings me happy birthday in his loudest voice possible with a thick Spanish accent. Never mind that my birthday is in March. We were laughing so hard. Anyway just a random funny story I thought you might enjoy. Love you all.  I hope you have the best week ever!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The mission is combined...New Name

Hey Family!!!

Thanks for all your emails.  Thanks for the photos its sounds like your trip was a lot of fun or should I say trips. You are all so outdoorsy now! Wow, I'm going to have to get into shape to keep up with all of you. But it sounds like a lot of fun. I'm glad you got the bike thing figured out, Mom, that's sort of funny. Sounds like you are keeping really busy. Keep me updated on all your fun things.

Well this week was pretty good. We are no longer the San Juan West Mission just San Juan. So weird! (you could change it on my blog for my address if you want or figure out how). Who knows where I will end up next transfer on the east side or even in one of the small islands. Guess we'll see. We met with our new president this week and it was amazing. Definately amazing! The spirit was so strong. We talked a lot about the family and focusing on the family in our teaching. It's weird to see a new president and things are definately going to change with how we do things here in the mission but having a Puerto Rican President is just what this mission needs right now. We are supposed to extend a baptismal invitation with every first lesson that we teach.  That's been a little hard for me becuase sometimes I don't feel comfortable extending an invitation to be baptized to someone who just listened about the church for the first time. Its different but it also is changing the way that we are focusing our teaching and that's good. Sometimes its a little uncomfortable.  For example we extended an invitation with this older couple. They had given us juice and we taught the lesson.  I extended an invitation to be baptized when they received an answer that these things were true and then they just sat there and stared blankly at us for a few seconds then the husband got up and said "are you finished with that?" and without waiting for the answer picked up the empty glasses and then he walked into the kitchen and then walked back and completely changed the subject and started asking us about what we liked about Puerto Rico.  So it can be awkward sometimes but that's what you got to do right? But we are really excited because we have found some really awesome people this week. We just have to get them to church and they'll be golden. Last week we received a reference from a woman in Florida who is Puerto Rican and was here visiting her mom. She called the mission office to find our number and then invited us to an FHE with her neighbor Carla. We had an awesome FHE talking about the family. Things are good here and I know that its just a matter of time before we can help our investigators start progessing towards baptism we have some really amazing people that we are working with.

My companion is awesome; Hermana Rodriguez. She is from El Salvador, that makes companion number 2 from salvador. She's so humble and has such a strong testimony. She's awesome and I know we are going to have a great transfer together. I am learning from her a lot already. Well anyway love you all a ton.   Sorry I wish I had more exciting stories to tell. I'll write more next week.

Photos: Me and President and Sister Martineau their last day.

Me and some of the sisters in our mission. My new companion is on my left, the one with the black button up shirt.